This week we interview Neil Curtis founder of the “Farm Up” Jamaica project. The “Farm Up” project has a goal of starting a 5 acre non-GMO, organic onion farm to stem the importation of onions in Jamaica.
A successful real estate investor and author (“NO GOD? KNOW GOD!”) of New York, with a family history in Jamaican farming, Neil has decided to take the “bull by the horns” and help tackle the current economic problems that Jamaica is facing. Understanding the family tradition of farming-to-live, Neil knows the issues being faced by Jamaica and its farmers. Throughout his business ventures in the US, Neil has continually kept the fire burning with an urge to assist in the rebuilding of Jamaica, but never knew quite how.
During a recent trip to Jamaica, Neil met with representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and spoke separately to key executives who shared a common heart-felt concern regarding the agricultural sector. Neil further researched and effectively identified the specific complications at hand, which is when he decided to develop Farm Up Jamaica Ltd and become part of the solution. His goal is to help wean Jamaica from its dependence on foreign food imports. This feat will ultimately increase the GDP and boost the Jamaican economy. Neil has decided to dedicate his energies to fundraising- with a consistent effort to appease the Jamaican Diaspora and erase the stigma held regarding the misuse of funds sent to Jamaica. He has decided to pioneer a measurable project approach, to guarantee continuous updates, as projects are completed. Neil believes in transparency, honesty and collective progress. He wants contributors to feel proud of this initiative, which will encourage continuous support of Farm Up Jamaica Ltd. Here is our conversation with Neil Curtis.
Q: What is your connection to Jamaica?
I am a Jamaican Cocoa farm owner. My parents were brought up and sent to school on farming and now I am continuing the family tradition, not only for myself, but for every Jamaican farmer who is interested in preserving our history.
Q: What is the “Farm Up” Jamaica project?
The Farm Up Jamaica Project is an initiative to help cultivate under-farmed and vacant lands through sustainable organic farming. Helping to reduce the importation of foreign foods into Jamaica and increasing the export of Jamaican products.
Q: How did you come up with the idea?
I came up with the idea as I tried to revitalize my own farm and realized that most farmers around me had no assistance to get them started. Jamaicans are great donors, just last year over $2Billion was sent to Jamaica through money remittence services like Western Union. I thought, most people are receiving money from abroad but how much of the funds are actually helping Jamaica’s agriculture? There had to be a better way, so I thought of a new organized, managed farming initiative. I knew it wouldn’t be an easy endeavor, but nothing worth while is easy. I also thought that If we stood back and did nothing then we are all to be blamed…
Q: What are the main goals for the project?
The main goals are to assist dormant farmers in sustainable organic farming, reduce the importation of some produce while increasing the export of others and help Jamaica become a more healthier environment.
Q: Why was onions chosen as the crop for the project?
Earlier this year when we began our investigation, onions were being imported at around 90% into Jamaica. Also onions are a fundamental crop that is consumed by the almost everyone making it a great test market crop.
Q: Do you have any partnerships with schools in the Mandeville area to groom young farmers?
We have begun talks to start partnerships with a few local Manchester Schools which will focus on organic agricultural training of students.
Q: If someone wants to help with the project what can they do?
If someone wants to help Farm Up Jamaica we are accepting contributions as we are relying primarily on donations from Jamaicans that live abroad to come to the rescue of Jamaica. We are accepting farming equipment also, the key is that we must get the job done. Any donation is something, we are not trying to get a large sum from any one person but are relying on our Jamaican Patriotic Spirit to assist these farmers.
Q: Are there plans to expand the “Farm Up” Jamaica project across the island?
Our idea is to expand Farm Up Jamaica island wide as distressed farmers are all across Jamaica.
Q: What are your personal beliefs on farming in Jamaica and how it can get a jump start?
I personally believe that the earth is a gift to us and that I am doing my God Given duty by embarking on this project. I believe that our lands are blessed and if we start to farm organically we can rise to self sustainability and achieve an international level of recognition for being one of the first islands to become organic. I think people will have to put their money where there mouth is to get this project jump started. We cannot afford for the dollar to go to $200+ because at that point Jamaica will be unpredictable especially when it comes to crime. These are the types of interventions we need to focus on as diaspora to in order to save our Country.
Q: Outside of the work you do with the “Farm Up” Jamaica, what is your favorite thing you love to do on our visit to Jamaica?
My favorite thing to do in Jamaica when I’m not working in agriculture is traveling the country to find natural God given wonders that exist like caves, caverns, sink holes, hot springs, natural rain forests, etc. I also love reggae music, Jamaican Art and entertainment.
Q: Thanks for the interview. Do you have any final thoughts for the readers of Jamaicans.com?
I believe that every Jamaican abroad needs to understand that we are going through a NATURAL DISASTER in Jamaica. We need to treat it that way. We need to send monetary contributions, organic seeds, organic fertilizers, natural pest control, and everything necessary to create a new Jamaica. A place where almost everything will be organic and its people healthy. We’ve had enough chemicals and the world is changing for the better, so should we.
About Farm Up Jamaica Ltd:
Farm Up Jamaica Ltd. is a non-profit organization formed to improve the Jamaican economy by decreasing the importation of foreign foods and agricultural products. Through strategic farming of vacant and under-farmed lands, we plan to help re-establish the agricultural sector to its maximum potential. We will work directly with the Jamaican Ministry of Agriculture to research and identify crops that can fill the shortages that exist in the local and export markets. We will assist farmers with materials, services, equipment and even workforce to make these farming initiatives a success. Farm Up Jamaica Ltd will also work alongside the Ministry to identify the markets for crops prior to sowing in order to ensure a complete and successful endeavor.
Farm Up Jamaica Ltd. will raise most of its funding from the donation of patriotic diaspora. We will also obtain support from international companies who operate in Jamaica or earn revenues from its population. Farm Up Jamaica Ltd. is an organization that operates with integrity and transparency. Jamaicans, both home and abroad, can rely on out efforts and proudly contribute to our cause.